Forget DEI As We Know It


Want to make a relevant DEI Statement?

Are you tired of struggling with what to say about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues? Do you care about the environment, social justice, and the good of the world, but don’t want to dive headfirst into a political debacle? What do you say about racial equality now that many companies who came in early got burned by the fringes of politics gone bad? Is this a case of if you don’t make some kind of statement, you’re doomed? No, it is not. The trend in 2023 seems to be that the noise surrounding these issues has given way to economic challenges dominating the news cycle. Here is your opportunity to take a stand and do something meaningful but avoid the risk of a grand political statement. 

Don’t SAY anything. DO SOMETHING.

In an era where it sometimes feels like you’ll be left out if you don’t make some kind of statement on social media or overfund your DEI function, differentiate yourself from the hot air by not making lofty statements and spending on social justice. Instead, choose to do something meaningful. While the trend in 2022 was to overinvest in ESG initiatives, very few (if any) investors actually saw a positive contribution to their bottom line for doing so, and very few companies have seen a return on internal investments in these areas. Hot air is out. ROI is in. 

So what do you do instead? Take a good hard look at where your organization can do a better job. Identify gaps, find the opportunities, and go after the ones that matter…the ones with a business case you can leverage to drive your bottom line.

  • If your executive team doesn’t look like your customer base, fix it. Make sure your next 5 candidate pools pull from people who reflect the population you serve. 
  • If you are lacking women in leadership positions, find them and hire or promote them. If you get the right ones, your leadership team will be forever changed for the better. 
  • If your global suppliers are pushing human rights violations under the rug, do something about it or don’t patronize them.
  • If some people in your organization are marginalized or not included, invite them in, showcase their work, and create an environment that enables them to contribute to their highest potential. It doesn’t matter if they are ethnically diverse, LGBTQ, introverted, handicapped or can’t eat what you serve in the cafeteria. If people are focused on power struggles, fighting for relevance or anything BUT delivering results for you, you are not getting the talent you are paying for. The business case is clear.
  • If your carbon footprint can be improved, do it. You can publicize it and get all kinds of goodwill.
  • If your employee affinity groups are creating divisiveness, get rid of them and direct them to find common ground and collaboration. You’re looking for real meaning, not wasted time.

I’ve spoken to several DEI teams in the last year for large multinationals that have missed the mark. Their goals were dominated by numbers of specific races and genders in leadership roles and deliverables like programs, training, and meetings. Not one could effectively articulate a business case for how what they were doing would generate shareholder value-add. Not. One. Despite that, these well-intended folks felt good about their contribution, even though none of them had a relevant seat at the leadership table. Can you see how bad it looks when the only black or brown executives are sitting in a DEI function struggling for relevance with the white men running the place? Don’t talk about it. If DEI is only about talking about hiring metrics and not the bottom line, get rid of them and DO BETTER. Improve your recruiting process so that your candidate slates are full of qualified applicants that reflect the population of your customer base so you have a better chance of bringing in diverse ideas and approaches that will challenge you, expand the conversation, and elevate your organization. If you’ve been fooled into thinking you should spend money on social justice that isn’t driving a dime of revenue, pull back that wasted expense and BE JUST. It’s not complicated, but it does require holding people accountable.

Forget the hot air, the grand statements, and the big ESG functions that can’t articulate a legitimate business case. Do something real and meaningful that moves the needle. Then talk about it everywhere after the fact. Take credit from the market and your shareholders. Nothing else is worth your time. 

Want to talk it through? Call us. It’s what we do.